The Magic Art of Listening

For many of us we have spent years strategically solving the problems in our corner of the world. When it comes to parenting refraining from solving your children’s problems is the best way to help them grow.

A technique you can find through the book How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is to simply listen with empathy. It’s one thing to listen, it’s another thing to actively listen to a child. You give them a blanketed gift of your time and focus.

When the child approaches with a sad story about a lost item or a mean comment said to them, you simply can respond by gently saying, “Oh.” The child will naturally feel like there is room for them to process verbally and actually what is achieved is they solve the situation on their own. Your only job is to continue to say, “Oh” or “I see” in a gentle compassionate voice.

When we try to solve our children’s problems we do two things. First we take the opportunity away from them to solve their own age-appropriate situations, which I feel gets in the way of their “personal master plan.” Secondly, if we solve their problems, they will eventually feel helpless to do so for themselves and always look to you for this help. For parents who desire their children be dependent on them this way, I want to encourage you to rethink this. Here’s an example. If you went to your spouse or friend and said, “I have this problem….” and every single time the friend solved it for you, you would eventually become dependent on that friend. If however, your friend or spouse just listened and you processed out a strategy for yourself, you will learn and grow. Which would you want?

Having children who are dependent on us like this is a function of codependency and is not healthy. Letting our kids see how resilient, capable and able they are is pure gold.